You're So Fine : The Falcons©2004JCMarion


In 1955 in a neighborhood jewelry store in Detroit, two employees named Eddie Floyd and Bob Manardo decided to develop a musical thing and form a vocal group. Soon two friends of the duo Tom Shetler and Arnett Robinson joined up. It was reportedly Arnett who came up with the name The Falcons despite there being at least two groups that previously used that name ( one that recorded for Regent/Savoy/RCA Victor, and a West Coast based group on Flip and Cash). Soon a fifth member was added who sang bass, Willie Schofield . Through a family connection of Floyd the group soon got a chance to record, and with a major label, Mercury. Unfortunately it was a one shot deal that did not pan out and the effort on #70940 called "This Day" and "Baby That's It" was released on September 1, 1956 and soon forgotten. Also forgotten is a record by local Detroit label Silhouette records "Sent Up" / "Can This Be Christmas" on #521.

The group made no new moves in the recording studio until late the following year when Ewart Abner of Vee Jay Records announced the formation of a new subsidiary label called Falcon Records and would feature new releases by Priscilla Bowman, Dee Clark, and the label's namesakes The Falcons. The result was "Now That It's Over" / "My Only Love" on #1006, but this side too does not get any positive results on the sales charts despite heavy promotion by Ewart Abner. By the end of 1957 Manardo and Shetler (the White members of the inter-racial group) leave for military service, and Arnett Robinson quits leaving Floyd and Schofield with new members Joe Stubbs, Lance Finney, and Mack Rice to round out The Falcons. The group does a turn at Chicago's Regal Theater with Al Benson during Christmas week.

In 1958 The Falcons record again. The result is "This Heart Of Mine" / "Romanita" on Kudo #661 (also supposedly leased to Chess) a label operated by a relative of Eddie Floyd. The record is released on June 9 and is promptly forgotten. In early 1959 The Falcons again are in the studio for another label run by Robert West, the uncle of Eddie Floyd. This time the label is Flick Records and the songs are "You're So Fine" and "Godess Of Angels" on #001. This time the reaction is quite different. After just a few plays on Detroit radio (especially by WCHB dj Larry Dixon) the "buzz" is out and the record is hot. It has finally happened for the group. Demand is so strong for the record in the motor city that Flick leases the side to United Artists label Unart on #2013 by mid March and now wider distribution is at hand.

In early April St. Louis and nashville report very strong sales for the record. In an interesting bit of information Unart execs reveal in May that copies of The Falcons hit are being released in stereo ! In August Dinah Washington and Brook Benton form a partnership that will produce a coast to coast tour featuring the two vocalists, The Falcons, and James Moody and his orchestra. In August Unart releases "You're Mine" and "Country Shack" on #2022. In October the national tour begins minus Dinah Washington who bowed out. her place was taken by Ruth Brown. The tour will last ten weeks and kicks off in Richmond, Virginia. In late 1959 The Falcons now on Chess Records record "Just For Your Love" and "This Heart Of Mine" on #1743. By the end of the year "You're So Fine" has topped the one million mark in sales and becomes one of the biggest R & B records of the year. At years end "Just For Your Love" turns out to be a moderate seller for the group.

In 1960 the original group had its last chart hit on a song called "The Teacher" (bw "Waiting For You") on United Artists #229 another moderate seller. Two more UA releases followed : "I + Love + You" and "Wonderful Love" on #255, and "Working man's Song" and "Pow ! You're In Love" on #289. Now Joe Stubbs left the group and was replaced by Wilson Pickett who sang lead on 1962's "I Found A Love" on Lupine #103 (the flip side was "Swing"). After this there were three forgettable releases for Atlantic that went nowhere and the group disbanded. However manager Robert West does a "Treadwell/Drifters" move and renames a group known as The Ramblers/Fabulous Playboys as a new Falcons. This group records for Lupine and Big Wheel but without success.

Among the ex-Falcons Mack Rice had some success as a solo performer, Eddie Floyd had one of the 1960s greatest hits in "Knock On Wood", Joe Stubbs (d. in1998) joined his brother Levi with The Four Tops for a while, and Wilson Pickett became world famous as one of the foremost practitioners of "soul" music during the decade. The Falcons time in the spotlight may have been short lived, but they were responsible for one of the great vocal group records ever, and a real bridge between the doowop style of the 1950s and the harder edged soul sounds of the 1960s. They were the right group at the right time.

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